BusinessDay

Apapa: How Trucks Transit Parks plans to consolidate gains of electronic call-up

On February 27, 2022, Trucks Transit Parks (TTP) Ltd marked one year of partnering with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Lagos State Government to introduce an electronic call-up system for batching trucks in and out of Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports in Lagos.

Electronic call-up system, popularly known as Eto App, is a technology that has no doubt, helped in sanitising Apapa metropolis by reducing significantly, the notorious Apapa gridlock, which had in the last decade, wreaked havoc on businesses, residents, motorists, and port users.

Since its introduction in February 2021, Eto has served as the authorised pathway for cargo trucks to access Lagos ports to lift laden containers, drop exports and transfer empties to ships at berths.

With electronic call-up, TTP has in the last year, recorded several milestones including a reduction in traffic congestion within the Lagos Port access corridors, reduction in extortion and illegal payments by truckers, achieving about 65 percent reduction in haulage cost and enhancing traffic orderliness around Apapa.

For motorists and port users, electronic call-up has brought a breath of fresh air that has seen economic and recreational activities slowly returning to the Apapa area.

Prior to Eto App, trucks with empty and export containers spent an average of two weeks on Apapa corridor before gaining access into the port to lift containers, drop empty, or export.

Interestingly, current statistics have shown that these containers spend between 60 and 90 hours on average to do their businesses at the port.

Also, the cost of moving containers from Apapa Port to warehouses in Lagos has drastically reduced by over 60 percent depending on the location of the importers’ warehouse.

Read also: NPA rolls out plans to attract more business to Eastern Ports

Before Eto, moving 20-foot containers from Apapa to locations in Lagos used to cost between N750, 000 to N800, 000, but now truckers charge between N200, 000 to N300, 000 representing N62.5 percent decrease in cost.

On the other hand, moving 40-foot containers from Apapa to locations in Lagos used to cost between N1,500,000 to N1,600,000 but now, cargo owners pay between N400,000 to N750,000 representing about 53.125 percent drop in cost.

Similarly, the cost of entering the port, which used to be around N100,000 and N150,000 due to the existence of illegal multiple checkpoints of extortion, has also reduced to about N15,000 to N25,000.

This means that with as little as N10, 000 plus N750 Value Added Tax (VAT) for pre-gate alone or N21,750 for both the pre-gate and a satellite park for trucks that do not have private parks, a truck can gain access into the port.

Though, TTP has recorded several upsides since the introduction of the electronic call-up system, port users particularly truckers and cargo owners have been registering some displeasure due to some downsides of the electronic call-up.

Confirming this, Richard Emenim, executive assistant to the Managing Director of TTP on planning and strategy, said TTP has received a lot of complaints from customers on the ineffectiveness of the Eto enforcement team, which has been a threat to the success of the call-up system.

Emenim, who noted that inadequate road infrastructure, is another obstacle that hinders the administration of call-up system, particularly blamed the bad portions of Ijora-Apapa Wharf road as well as the terrible state of Tin-Can Island access roads.

Sola Giwa, senior special assistant to the Lagos State Governor on the Central Business District, affirmed that the major problem that has faced the electronic call-up in the last one year had to do with bad roads and people trying to circumvent the system in order to get to the port at all cost.

To resolve this, Giwa called on the Federal Government to enable cargo evacuation from the Tin-Can Island Port by repairing the Sunrise and Tin-Can axis of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway.

Other challenges include the unchecked activities of impostors and touts whose presence creates unnecessary issues for truckers on all access roads, particularly Tin-Can; indiscrete parking of trucks at pre-gates and on the road, which creates serious traffic congestion and reduces the number of trucks that can be batched as well as issues of extortion, and multiple checkpoints where truckers are being asked to pay different illegal fees even with valid Eto tickets.

Noting that low admission of empty containers into the port results in longer time for trucks to access the port, he said that Eto ticket racketeering through illegal selling of tickets is another obstacle to the effectiveness of the call-up.

He assured that the firm would continue to sensitise stakeholders and to improve on their system.

On some of the strategies put in place by the TTP to address some of the issues, Emenim said that TTP has massively reduced the frequency of stolen Eto tickets, installed IT-automated batching system that makes it impossible for satellite parks or pre-gate owners to release truck at will, and provide a dashboard where regulators, users and manufacturing companies can see what is happening in the port.

“We have been able to reduce the time spent on accessing the port from two weeks to 90 hours. The cost of moving cargo has also reduced to an average of 65 percent within the last 12 months,” he said.

The call-up system, has no doubt, gone a long way in using technology to solve the protracted traffic congestion in Apapa, but industry close watchers believed that a lot needs to be done to bring Apapa back to its original glory.

This, according to Jama Onwubuariri, managing director of the Trucks Transit Parks, was part of the reasons TTP plans to invest more into expanding its automation processes to ensure that less human interference is involved in the process of admitting trucks into the port.

Giving insight into the expansion plans, the TTP boss said the company is moving to a system where a trucker will need to either punch the code of his or her ticket in a machine to gain access or use an e-tag that is tech-enabled to gain access into the port or parks without having to use any manual approach.

This, he said, will ensure timeliness and efficiency for customers using Eto App.

To achieve this, Onwubuariri said the TTP would also expand its engagement with terminal operators to ensure that traffic sanity on the Apapa roads can translate to port efficiency.

“We recently implemented the Terminal Request Procedure, which enables terminals to provide electronically on the Eto App, the number of export and empty containers that are expected from the shipping lines on a daily basis. The NPA is also expected to get from terminal operators the number of trucks they can process in a day across all the categories. The NPA Traffic Managers are also expected to update the Eto App with that information, which will be the basis for releasing trucks from various pre-gate terminals to the ports,” he explained.

This process, he said, would enable TTP to match terminals’ expectations with the number they can process and the number of trucks that are sent to the street daily.

Stakeholders, who on several occasions have commended efforts of TTP in addressing Apapa problem in the last year, believed that a lot needs to be done to further drive port efficiency and consolidate the gains of the electronic call-up.

For Ayo Durowaiye, assistant general manager, operations, NPA, TTP has recorded some the milestones in the last year but it needs to address issues associated with internal challenges, charges, physical and technological infrastructure, customers interface, as well as complaints of displeasure from customers.

Durowaiye, who doubles as the chairman of the Electronic Call-up Implementation Committee, said there is also a need to ensure that the milestones achieved in managing Apapa traffic congestion can translate into efficiency at the port.

On his part, Giwa advised TTP to look at addressing issues around its internal structure, increase staff capacity and communication strategy in this second year.